Palo Duro Canyon – The Grand Canyon of Texas

Our campsite in Palo Duro Canyon
Our campsite in Palo Duro Canyon

I was really looking forward to camping in Palo Duro Canyon. Just the idea of looking up at the canyon walls from our campsite was enough to plan our trip around a stay in the park. It was worth the two mile drive into Palo Duro Canyon down several switchbacks and a 10% grade to get to one of our most memorable campsites in all of our camping years. Our site in the Sagebrush campground had great views of the canyon and a private little sitting area behind our RV.

Our private picnic area behind the RV
Our private picnic area behind the RV

Known as the Grand Canyon of Texas, Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the United States. With 16 miles of paved roads through the canyon and miles of hiking, biking, and horse trails, there is enough to make everyone happy.

One of the most popular trails in the park is the Lighthouse Trail through the canyon for a close up look at the Lighthouse formation, the symbol of the state park. The multi-use trail is about a 6 mile round trip from the parking lot. We started out early on a cool Sunday morning and encountered cyclists, runners, and other hikers but no horses along the trail. A transplanted Georgian who now lives in Amarillo stopped to chat as we passed each other on the trail.

View from the Lighthouse Trail
View from the Lighthouse Trail

The trail was packed red dirt and rock but not difficult. Our plan was to go to the base of the lighthouse but when two different hikers stopped to tell us about two rattlesnakes ahead of us I was done. Henry went a little farther and tried to convince me there was no sign of them but I wouldn’t budge! I was tired and ready to head back so we turned around about .2 miles before the end of the trail. We were done for the day when we got back to the campsite and loafed the rest of the afternoon.

Although there was no wildlife along the trail (except for the rattlesnakes we didn’t see) there was plenty of wildlife in the park. On the first afternoon I spotted a threatened Texas Horned Lizard in our campsite.

This Texas Horned Lizard ran through our campsite
This Texas Horned Lizard ran through our campsite

This Mule Deer beside the road wasn’t afraid of me.

Mule Deer
Mule Deer

Wild Turkeys wandered through the campground one evening.

Wild Turkeys wandered through the campground
Wild Turkeys wandered through the campground

We took a short hike to explore the Hole In the Wall.

And explored the replica of a Cowboy Dugout.

Cowboy Dugout
Cowboy Dugout

There was a rainbow one afternoon.

Rainbow after a short rain shower
Rainbow after a short rain shower

We saw T-Bone, one of the resident Texas Longhorns in the park.

T-Bone, one of the Texas Longhorns
T-Bone, one of the Texas Longhorns

We enjoyed our stay so much I think this is now my favorite state park!

There are several campgrounds in Palo Duro Canyon State Park with backpacking, equestrian sites, tent sites, and RV sites with water and electricity.Our site in the Sagebrush Campground had large private sitting area with a covered shelter over the picnic table and a fire ring. There are hiking, biking and equestrian trails. There are also several day use picnic areas, cabins, stables with guided horseback rides, an interpretive center, and the Trading Post Restaurant and Park store. If you would like to read my detailed campground review of this park, click here.

 

21 thoughts on “Palo Duro Canyon – The Grand Canyon of Texas”

  1. Very nice post about one of our favorite places to visit closer to home. Unfortunately, rattlers are pretty common in both of the canyon state parks and should be respected, for sure. You did good to not mess with them. Glad you were able to visit here before the heat of summer sets in, too. It can be brutal. Been there, done. that.

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    1. Ingrid, we first visited the park a few years ago on a day trip from Amarillo and have wanted to camp there ever since. I’m really glad we included it on this trip. Check it out if your plans ever take you near that part of Texas.

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  2. We’ll have to put this on our “must visit” list! Glad you didn’t see the rattlers. Cowboy boots would be in order….but not ideal for a hike. 😞
    Fabulous pictures….and a rainbow!

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  3. I loved this post! I’m with you on the rattlesnakes–time to turn around. Do you worry about Blondie getting a little too friendly with the snakes out there?

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    1. Yes, I do worry about Blondie and snakes and all the critters. She stayed home the day we did the hike, though. She has been limping a little and having a hard time with the steps so we are trying not to let her do anything too strenuous.

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      1. Zoe has been limping on and off this year, too. She’s developing arthritis and gets very stiff if she swims or walks too much. Her body doesn’t keep up with her enthusiasm so well these days. But, oh, I love the old dogs.

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  4. Palo Duro Canyon is a gym indeed. We also encountered rattlers on that same trail. I saw it on the trail from a distance and John went on to scare it off the trail. We continued on and back without any other sightings, but I was jumpy for sure. There were a lot of grasshoppers in the brush and they made a sound like a rattler. To get to the base of the Lighthouse, you have to climb a short trail. Going up wasn’t too bad, but coming back down was difficult. Worth it though. Glad you got to spend more time there this time around.

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  5. Palo Duro Canyon is a gem indeed. We also encountered rattlers on that same trail. I saw it on the trail from a distance and John went on to scare it off the trail. We continued on and back without any other sightings, but I was jumpy for sure. There were a lot of grasshoppers in the brush and they made a sound like a rattler. To get to the base of the Lighthouse, you have to climb a short trail. Going up wasn’t too bad, but coming back down was difficult. Worth it though. Glad you got to spend more time there this time around.

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  6. Wow! We travelled through that area on our way west but didn’t want to take the time to drive down there since we were just stopping for a one-night layover. It definitely looks like a great destination. It reminds me a lot of Sedona on a smaller scale.

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    1. We stayed in Amarillo a few years ago and made a day trip to Palo Duro Canyon. After that we knew we wanted to come back and camp there some day. I’m so glad we were able to do that this spring.

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